Mastering the transition towards energy efficiency in the buildings sector: The European Union’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 12:12
Europe and Central Asia

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is the European Union's (EU) main legislative instrument promoting the improvement of the energy performance of buildings among the Member States of the EU.

The EPBD sets a framework for energy-efficient building systems, which are adaptable to the national building codes of the Member States. The objective of the Directive is to promote energy savings in buildings by taking into account local climatic conditions in different parts of the EU as well as conditions such as temperature, ventilation, and humidity within buildings. Member States are granted flexibility in the implementation of building standards, taking into account their unique circumstances. In the residential sector, the progressive implementation of the building codes has facilitated an 11% reduction in final energy consumption in buildings between 2005 and 2015.

The EPBD sets a framework for energy-efficient building systems, which are adaptable to the national building codes of the Member States. The objective of the Directive is to promote energy savings in buildings by taking into account local climatic conditions in different parts of the EU as well as conditions such as temperature, ventilation, and humidity within buildings. Member States are granted flexibility in the implementation of building standards, taking into account their unique circumstances. In the residential sector, the progressive implementation of the building codes has facilitated an 11% reduction in final energy consumption in buildings between 2005 and 2015.

The EPBD further assists in providing transparent information to building occupants. It has introduced Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) schemes which inform building tenants and owners about the energy ratings of buildings and cost-effective ways to improve energy performance. The Directive also provides regulatory mechanisms for the energy performance of buildings. Inter alia, all Member States shall ensure that new public buildings are Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs) – i.e. highly energy-performant buildings – by the end of 2018, while all new constructions shall be NZEBs by the end of 2020. It has also put in place a comprehensive renovation strategy, requiring Member States to prepare a roadmap to transform their current building stock to a highly efficient stock by 2050. Lastly, the EPBD has included several provisions for the use of smart technology for even more cost-effective energy use in buildings.

The comprehensive stakeholder engagement in the legislative process for the update of the EPBD, which was conducted in an utmost transparent manner, as well as the science-based nature of the process, makes the EU's approach a good practice in how countries may go about in tackling emissions from the building sector.

Impact of activities
  • Increased energy efficiency: In the residential sector, the progressive implementation of the building codes has facilitated an 11% reduction in final energy consumption in buildings between 2005 and 2015. However, it is important to note that warmer winters in Europe also play a role in this decrease (European Commission, 2017). The European Commission notes that after the introduction of technological upgrades, new buildings consume ‘half as much as typical buildings’ from 1980 (European Commission, 2014). The building sector has shown increasing potential to be the driver in achieving Europe’s energy efficiency targets and implements its international commitments.
  • Benefits to occupants of buildings: Buildings renovated in accordance with the EPBD guidelines utilise lesser energy to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature which allows occupants to benefit from lower utility bills (The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, 2018). Additionally, a higher energy performance in buildings provides a good indoor climate free of dampness and leaks, leading to better wellbeing of occupants (European Commission, 2018b). In countries where the population lives in fuel poverty and faces high energy tariffs, energy-efficient buildings are a channel to escape energy poverty or fuel poverty (Ürge-Vorsatz, 2008). Thus, with the introduction of energy efficiency requirements in national building codes, consumers have more tools at their disposal to save energy with financial efficiency and better health, resulting in a positive trend in energy savings in buildings.
  • Economic boost: The certification of the energy performance of buildings has encouraged consumers to buy or rent more energy-efficient buildings (CA EPBD, 2016). Such investment has stimulated the construction industry of Europe which generates about 9% of Europe’s GDP and directly accounts for 18 million jobs. The EU has also recognised the potential of job creation in construction and energy-efficient sectors and pushes Member States to establish a link between long-term renovation strategies and relevant skill development (European Commission, 2015). Moreover, a boosted renovation market provides additional benefits to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that contribute to more than 70% of the value added in the EU building sector (European Commission, 2018b) .
Institutions involved

• European Parliament
• Council of the European Union
• European Union Member States